Stubborn dog? This little word "stubborn" gets so many dogs in trouble. I hear this word used very frequently to describe a dog’s behavior. It often is used to describe a dog that will not come when called or perform another behavior such as ‘sit’.
Whether you want to call a dog stubborn or not, I think we can all agree on one thing. Dogs have a brain and they make choices. That is one of the wonderful, magical elements to enjoying a dog in our world.
They are dogs, yet they become members of our human families! Think about that. Should it be easy to teach them our language and have them do things when we ask them? How difficult is it for humans to learn another language, yet when a dog doesn’t learn a language quickly enough or chooses to do something else — he is labeled stubborn.
Often when I see a dog that has been labeled “stubborn” I can very quickly identify that the trainer is not being clear with his instructions, is repeating cues or is using a lot of extraneous movements that are confusing the dog.
What is the opposite of stubborn? What about a dog that instantly does everything that a trainer asks. They sit beautifully, they come when called from a dead sprint going the other direction, they leave off-limits food without a second thought. Do you know what I call that dog? A well trained dog that is motivated to do those behaviors. That takes time and good teaching.
Think about a small child learning to ride a bicycle. She might start with training wheels to gain confidence and to make the learning process go smoothly. If you take off the training wheels and she falls down, are you going to call her stubborn or are you going to put the wheels back on and give her encouragement to try again.
Just because a dog doesn’t do everything that is asked of him doesn’t make him bad. Maybe he needs more practice, maybe his or her teacher needs a different strategy to make the teachings stick. Maybe he needs more confidence before he can master the new skill. Think about how many years a professional teacher goes to school to learn how to teach young minds.
You might be a professional teacher, but chances are there are others reading this post. Should you be able to instantly understand how to motivate a dog to do everything perfectly? Should your dog be able to do everything that is asked among the distractions of the world.
Focusing is a learned skill. That is a big message I teach my private clients to think about. When your dog walks outside, she is inundated with smells, sounds and movement that trigger many other reactions besides sitting or lying down or running to us. When you ask her to do one of those things, you are competing with innate desires to do something else. Will your dog do it?
Hopefully, if not, you will chalk it up to one more training exercise that you can work on and not call your dog stubborn.